Which Fungus Should I Drink?

The Mini Paceman is unique in many ways, but it fits into the American car culture in at least this one way – good cupholders!  It is not hard work to fit a coffee and a water into the two cupholders that sit in front of the stick shift.  Using my right hand to consume these beverages, is a slight challenge when I need to shift gears, but I make it work with attention and timing.

It’s football season, so here’s a little love for my Hoos – and my recent coffee concoction – added butter and MCT oil. If I was to leave this on the counter for several days, I’m sure we would see something else growing on top!

I switched to all decaffeinated coffee at my doctor’s advice about 2 years ago.  I was on “half caff” so it wasn’t a very rough transition. But I must be the only decaf drinker in my office, perhaps one of the only ones in the company. I usually have to make my own decaf pot.

Having recently worked away from the main office for two weeks, I considered making a pot of decaf upon my return.  The decaf air pot still had some coffee left – probably since the last time I had used it.  I knew from experience to look inside at what had grown since.  A three-to-four-inch circle of mold rested on top of the coffee.  As Mad Magazine used to spell it:  Yecch!  I cleaned the pot but didn’t have the stomach to try and brew a new batch.

One of the pieces of advice I received from a health practitioner was to avoid mold.  Apparently, the brain and other neurology reacts to mold, which may heighten issues related to autism and anxiety.  At the time of getting this advice, I thought about some crawl space issues we were having at home, and how much time I had spent working on that.  It wasn’t the only factor, but it did play into our decision to sell our house and move into an apartment with much newer construction.

We now have a top-of-the-line air purifier running in our home.  I have cleaning chores on my calendar to keep mold at bay in the bath.  I regularly change out the A.C. filter.  But the real heartbreaker:  I should probably change my coffee routine.  Coffees vary in the levels and types of molds they carry.  Some can produce potentially harmful mycotoxins, based on the origin, variety, and even the altitude of the coffee plants during their growth.

Mold is a fungus – but mushrooms are fungi too. Obviously, we need to stay away from many molds, but there are lots of healthy benefits to many mushrooms.  Surprisingly, mushrooms can be used in a powder form to simulate coffee.  One product I’ve sampled recently is Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee substitute.  For a instant-style drink, it worked well.  I enjoyed the flavor – somewhat because it is similar enough to coffee, but also for its unique properties as well.  This may be an investment that I need to research more.

Dave Asprey, the man who invented Bulletproof coffee, discusses the aspect of mold in coffee on his web pages.  I’ve recently learned via his podcast that he sold the Bulletproof coffee business, but still stands by his work as it relates to the brain-enhancing concoction.  (One of the ingredients of this coffee mixture is Medium Chain Triglyceride Coconut Oil.  I’ve been working through a bottle of organic MCT oil to see if I get any improvement – no problems, but no measurable results, either.)  He suggests single origin beans as a hedge against mycotoxins; I have not looked for these.

To keep down the growth of these well-hidden mycotoxins, I have switched to a stainless-steel percolator for our home use.  It is not only easier to fully clean but has very few hidden spaces where mold can grow.  I do buy coffee at a couple of restaurants, and I’ve asked these chains about their cleaning procedures to make sure I’m not adding to my mold issues.   This is about as close as I can come to quitting — without quitting.  I think my next step is stay away from these air pots unless I’ve cleaned the pipes and baffles myself.  I’ll probably be cutting my coffee consumption in half by taking this step.

Drinking coffee in the Mini is one of the joys, and one of the mind hacks, of my autistic life.  I’d hate to give it up.  My functional medicine doctor is an extremely wise and amazingly healthy man — and he sips coffee during appointments, his cup resting on a plug-in warmer.  Maybe I don’t have to.   I’ll gather some more data first.  It would be delusional to think that I can escape every harmful fungus on this planet, and I’m thankful for the delicacy of mushrooms.  Reducing my exposure to molds seems to have helped so far. 

If any of you have had experience or success with reducing mold exposure, I’d love to hear about it!  Just like tracking the mileage on the Mini, I’m sure there’s some way to track mold – but it might cost more than my car payment!  In the meantime, I’ll keep shiftin’ – and keep my coffee as clean as I can.

Published by Bart Shoaf

Blogging about victories and challenges as a middle-aged man with a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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